Film & Television

The Leisure Seeker: A Disappointing Trip Down Memory Lane

The best scenes are the ones between Ella and John, and they run the gamut from affectionate reminiscing (prompted by Ella) to rage over real and imagined infidelities. At one point, they take a detour to visit Ella’s first boyfriend Dan Coleman (the late comedian Dick Gregory in his last role) in a nursing home. John demands to know whether he wears “Boxers or briefs?” an ongoing debate he and Ella have had. “I’m wearing diapers!” insists Dan. Ella is a bit stunned to realize that her first love, like her last, doesn’t know who she is.

Nursing homes aren’t painted in a very pretty light here; they’re referred to as “human warehouses.” In fact, during one of his more lucid moments, John makes Ella promise to help him commit suicide before it comes to that. Knowing that she’s running out of time herself, Ella worries about who will care for John. And her concerns are well-founded.

The Spencers have two children: Will (Christian McKay), who is a bit of a loser and Jane (Janel Moloney), a successful professor with a husband and children. Both infantilize their parents, which could have been explored more deeply. Neither is given much to do except worry and take their parents’ decisions personally. But, although Ella and John (when he remembers them) love their children, this last journey is theirs and theirs alone.

When international directors set their films in the U.S., it’s always interesting to try and decipher what they think of us. Virzi, apparently, believes America is populated with stock characters from vintage television who eat burgers and go camping.

On the other hand, and for no apparent reason, he set the film in the summer of 2016, and the Spencers encounter a Trump rally (and later, a Hillary convention). “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” John chants, caught up in the spirit of “Make America Great Again.”

“Hush!” Ella scolds him, pulling a Trump/Pence button off his jacket. “You’re a democrat.”

Throughout the movie, and even in its entirely predictable (and needlessly foreshadowed) conclusion, Mirren and Sutherland are magnetic. The two actors last worked together in 1990 in Bethune: The Making of a Hero. When asked at the Toronto Film Festival about their reunion, Sutherland enthused, “I thought she was a genius then, and now I know it.” Mirren responded true to cheeky form, “You look exactly the same, and you have the same spark. You’re totally, absolutely, exactly the same. Just as annoying as you ever were.”

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  • gary in bama April 10, 2018 at 11:04 am

    to understand you have to really love some one a long time. then it makes sense .